The Game Changer: The RIAA Owns the Sandbox

In a landmark trial, a Minnesota woman had the guts to stand up against the RIAA, and lost. The NY Times is reporting that she has been slammed with a $222,000 fine (odd number right?) for 24 songs she made available on Kazaa.

Am I frustrated about the outcome of this trial? Of course. Do I think the RIAA is a crock? Absolutely. But what really “grinds my gears” is the definition of stealing that was used. I posted a story on my twitter page yesterday from Ars Technica, that noted Jennifer Pariser, the head of litigation for Sony BMG’s testimony where she defined song stealing as:

“When an individual makes a copy of a song for himself, I suppose we can say he stole a song.” Making “a copy” of a purchased song is just “a nice way of saying ‘steals just one copy’,” she said.

 

The operative phrase in that quote is ‘makes a copy of a song, FOR HIMSELF”. A large amount of my frustration comes from the notion that people are expected to “rent” songs that they pay for. As the content owner, I expect to freely do what I want with my music – the three screen philosophy – I want a cd for the car, burned version for iTunes, and a file on my iPod. I paid for it, its mine, “stealing” from yourself is possibly the most ludicrous philosophy I have ever heard. What Pariser is saying is that the record label owns the album you just purchased; they are just nice enough to let you pay to “borrow” it for a while.

 

What’s worse, the odds seemed stacked against the defendant as the Times article points out – the judge set up the record labels for a slam dunk by saying they –

“…did not have to prove that songs on Ms. Thomas’s computer had actually been transmitted to others online. Rather, the act of making them available could be viewed as infringement.”

I am in no way defending her use of Kazaa, as she was most likely stealing music off of the P2P network, but isn’t it the legal system’s job to prove, not just assume? Its crazy I know….

Because of this trial, and the many settlements that have come before it, the RIAA has essentially become the big guy on the playground who used to shake kids down for lunch money, or a better spot in the 4 Square line. I hope that next time someone stands up to these bullies the RIAA, the fight is fair. The association is just delaying the inevitable anyway… eventually, all music will be free.

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